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Teaching Music History Today: Making Tangible Connections to Here and Now

Author(s): Melanie Lowe

Journal: Journal of Music History Pedagogy
ISSN 2155-109X

Volume: 1;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 45;
Date: 2010;
Original page

Keywords: Music history | pedagogy | history survey

There are two daunting challenges in teaching undergraduate music history today: 1) to be through and comprehensive, and 2) to make music history tangibly relevant in the lives of students. Only by abandoning the unrealistic goal of "covering it all" can instructors gain the time required to put the "old stories" of European music history in direct dialogue with the contemporary experiences of everyday student lives in America. Three multi-class activities on eighteenth-century music offer examples of how such contact between "then" and "now" can be accomplished. The first addresses notions of popular versus high art in order to demonstrate the pitfalls of anachronistic thinking when studying the music and the career of Joseph Haydn. The second uses a 24-hour listening journal to introduce topical analysis. The third is a seemingly straightforward production proposal for Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro that leads unexpectedly to discussion of such philosophical issues as the integrity of an artwork, the knowable versus unknowable intentions of a composer, and the production and location of musical meaning. Ultimately, to be able to think intelligently, meaningfully, and humanely about music, undergraduate students need fewer facts at their fingertips than instructors traditionally deliver.
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